The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in 2003, but entering the postseason that year the Giants were considered a legitimate dark horse to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
New York entered the postseason on a four-game winning streak with the hottest offense in the NFL. Big Blue had averaged 29.4 points per game over its last five regular season games despite scoring only 10 points in its playoff-clinching victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17.
The Giants continued to light up the scoreboard in their road Wild Card Game against the San Francisco 49ers. They led 38-14 with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter when all of sudden the offense stopped scoring and Jeff Garcia and the 49ers couldn't be stopped.
San Francisco scored two quick touchdowns and converted two-point conversions after both scores to cut the lead to 38-30 very early in the fourth quarter. After a second consecutive three and out by New York's offense, the 49ers cut the lead to five with a field goal.
The Giants offense woke up with a 40-yard drive but kicker Matt Bryant missed a 42-yard field goal that would have put the Giants back up by eight with only three minutes left in the game.
San Francisco drove the ball 76 yards for a touchdown but a failed two-point conversion gave the Giants a chance to win the game if they could get into field goal range in exactly a minute. A 33-yard kickoff return by Delvin Joyce set up the Giants at midfield, and five plays later Bryant was lining up for a 41-yard game-winner with six seconds left.
This is when an epic game became bizarre. Trey Junkin, a 41-year-old journeyman long snapper who was signed earlier in the week because Jim Fassel was concerned about poor snaps in previous games that season, ironically made a low wide snap to holder Matt Allen.
Unable to get the snap down, Allen rolled out to his right, looking to make a play with his arm. He spotted an open Rich Seubert inside the 49ers 5-yard line and heaved it. Seubert was clearly interfered with by San Francisco's Chike Okeafor, but it was overlooked by the officials. Instead the refs decided to call a penalty on Seubert for being an ineligible receiver, even though it was discovered after the game that he was, in fact, eligible.
Instead of a re-kick from around the 5-yard line, the game was declared over and the 49ers moved on to play the Bucs while the Giants went home.
It is worth noting that the Giants suffered an even more improbable loss in Week 2 of the very next season.
The Giants were leading the Cowboys 32-29 with 11 seconds left in the game after a 30-yard field goal by Bryant had seemed to cap a 15-point fourth quarter comeback. Amazingly, Bryant sent the kickoff out of bounds, setting up Dallas, with no timeouts, on the Giants 40-yard line.
A 26-yard pass from Quincy Carter to Antonio Bryant, where Bryant was inexplicably able to get out of bounds, set up a game-tying 52-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff. The Cowboys won it on another Cundiff field goal in overtime.
Jim Fassel, who was also at the helm during the Vikings' playoff collapse, sure knew how to lead a team to a loss from a definite win.